The left says President Obama needs to stand up to the Republicans more. The Tea Party says it wants less power in the federal government, Wall Street, and special interests, and no more bailouts. Is there a way for the president to satisfy both of these groups simultaneously?
Could be. The left wing of the Democratic Party actually has a lot in common with the Tea Party. These points of agreement are not shared by the establishment GOP. So here's how the president can drive a wedge into the 112th Congress and make McConnell choose: Enact the Tea Party agenda and strengthen the president, or keep trying to make Obama a one-termer and disillusion the most motivated segment of his party.
The president should invite the newly-elected Republicans to Thanksgiving dinner with their families. In a way it's the most American holiday, and declining the invitation will just make them look surly. He should introduce them to his kids, carve the turkey himself, and toss the ol' oblong spheroid with them on the White House lawn. It's tough to call someone a Muslim socialist illegal immigrant usurper when you're yelling for him to find you on a deep post pattern and your kids and his kids are talking about Harry Potter or Justin Beiber.
After dinner, when they're loaded up on American craft beer (support small business!) and tryptophan, watching the Cowboys get their ass kicked on a flat-screen hung between portraits of Abe Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, BHO should remind these new federal employees that his first job out of college was trying to restore manufacturing jobs in the rust belt. That he could have taken six figures after law school to help big business concentrate its power, but decided instead to work on increasing voter participation and developing neighborhood economies.
Then he can point out there's much he agrees with them on: Corporate power. Jobs. Government pork. And tell them he's prepared to help them put their money where their mouth is by aligning them with key Democrats on the appropriate committees to do the following:
1) Make the DISCLOSE Act law. If the Tea Partiers are really such small-d democrats and big-p Populists, they should have no problem requiring candidate and issue ads to disclose their funding source in legible type right there on the ad itself. No having to go online to find out that attack ad was "Paid for by Citizens Against Cancer and For Puppies." In California, three recent ballot initiatives bought and paid for by major corporations were shot down by voters -- in large part, a member of the state's Fair Political Practices Commission told me, because of the state's strong disclosure law. If a company whose malfeasance cost 29 West Virginians their lives is buying TV time for candidates, West Virginians ought to know.
2) Tax the shit out of Wall Street. Any employee of a company that received bailout money gets taxed 90% on income over $1,000,000 (counting bonus and stock options) for as long as the money isn't paid back, and 50% thereafter. Employees of any company that receives taxpayer funds in the future pay 99% over half a mil -- that ought to motivate them to be more careful with the taxpayer-backed money they're gambling with. Tax-the-rich hasn't gone over well in the past because everybody thinks they might be rich one day, but this belief is contradicted by the facts: You're more likely to work your way up out of your class in Norway, Denmark, Australia, Canada (and four more countries) than in the US. Moreover, not a lot of Tea Partiers work in Wall Street, judging by the looks of things, so this shouldn't clash with their aspirations. We can also change the way hedge fundies pay their taxes; right now, most of their earnings are taxed as capital gains, which is less than half the rate as what most of their income would be taxed at (and also bullshit, since the income is not capital gains). Speaking of which, because most of their income is capital gains, the wealthiest 400 households paid only 16.6 percent of their income in taxes -- less than what someone making $40,000 pays. That can be fixed (and for a lot more than 400 households, too).
3) Take that money and give it to the states to spend on public works projects. This will amount to a much-needed stimulus without any additional burden on the federal budget. It will also be extremely hard for the Tea Partiers to turn down because, their bemoaning of earmarks notwithstanding, turning down money to put people to work in your district is not believed to be a good strategy for re-election. It will also have the added bonus of juicing the economy because the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the US a D for its infrastructure, and that slows the flow of goods and commerce. How much this amounts to isn't the point.
The Tea Party will sure be surprised to find out their new best friend in the capital has the middle name Hussein. And the smoke coming out of John Boehner's ears won't be because he smokes.